Witness says Skakel told of peeping incident
By Kevin McCallum - Stamford Advocate
NORWALK -- Michael Skakel told two friends he masturbated in a tree while peeping in Martha Moxley's bedroom window on the night his 15-year-old neighbor was killed, according to testimony at yesterday at his murder trial.
The revelations capped a rancorous day of testimony punctuated by the son of former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith calling Skakel's attorney, Michael Sherman, "an ambulance-chasing creep."
Senior Assistant State's Attorney Susann Gill called Michael Meredith, 34, to testify about a conversation he recalled with Skakel in the summer of 1987 at the family's Belle Haven home.
Skakel is accused of bludgeoning his neighbor to death with a six-iron golf club in 1975, when Skakel and Moxley were both 15.
Meredith, a New York resident and Hollywood filmmaker, explained that he met Skakel in 1985 while working on U.S. Rep. Joseph Kennedy's, D-Mass., re-election campaign.
He noted that his father, also a former football broadcaster, was friendly with the Kennedy family and worked with Greenwich resident Frank Gifford, whose daughter, Victoria, was married to Michael Kennedy.
Michael Kennedy, the sixth of Robert and Ethel Kennedy's 11 children, died in 1997 in a skiing accident in Colorado. Ethel Kennedy is Skakel's aunt.
Meredith explained that he joined Kennedy's campaign shortly after a nine-month stint at the Elan School, the same drug and rehabilitation school Skakel attended between 1978 and 1980.
The two began talking about their experiences at the school in Poland Springs, Maine, and agreed the school ought to be shut down, Meredith said.
"We felt it was an immoral place," Meredith said. ". . . Both of us felt the place was a concentration camp and it was destroying kids, very vulnerable children."
Several students from Elan testified last week that while at the school, Skakel either incriminated himself in the murder or outright confessed to the crime.
Meredith said he and Skakel talked about filing a class action suit on behalf of former students of Elan. By 1987, the two were working so closely together on the lawsuit that Meredith came from Boston to spend the summer at the Skakels' Belle Haven home, he said.
During the course of a summer spent across the street from the crime scene, Meredith asked about Skakel's involvement in the Moxley murder.
Skakel said he was innocent, Meredith recalled. Skakel told him that on the night of Moxley's murder, he climbed a tree outside her home and peeped in her bedroom window, Meredith said.
Skakel told him he saw Moxley in her room that night and masturbated in the tree outside her window, Meredith said. Skakel added that from his vantage point in the tree, he saw his brother, Tommy, walking from their home onto the Moxley property, Meredith said.
"He said once Tommy was out of sight, he climbed down the tree and went back to the (Skakel) house," Meredith said.
"Overwhelmed" by Skakel's "unsettling" explanation at the time, Meredith cut his stay in Greenwich short and returned to Boston, he recalled.
"There was a fear factor," Meredith said. "I felt that Michael Skakel had a boiling under the skin."
Upon cross-examination, it was Sherman who appeared to got under Meredith's skin.
Sherman brought up Meredith's criminal record, and the filmmaker acknowledged he had a "very lengthy, vast arrest record." Meredith, who said he just finished shooting a film for Miramax, made a passing reference to one arrest that involved a stolen Ferrari, illegal weapons and cocaine.
But Sherman was more interested in Meredith's 1989 felony conviction for burglary, which Meredith said he did not think was a "full-blown conviction."
Sherman pressed him to explain what he meant, and Meredith did not seem to appreciate having to repeat himself.
"I'll give it to you one more time, Mick," Meredith said.
Sherman later challenged Meredith about why he never said before yesterday that Skakel often climbed the tree and spied on his neighbor while she undressed.
"You sure you're not an actor?" Sherman quipped.
"I'm positive, but you've got some talent," Meredith said.
Meredith explained that his distrust of Sherman was rooted in his belief that the defense attorney had "leaked his name to newspapers," such as USA Today. Sherman later denied the claim.
Meredith's disdain became apparent after Sherman remarked about how the filmmaker gazed into the gallery while being questioned.
"Anything else you'd like to say to the people out there?" Sherman asked.
"I just don't like to look at you because you're such an ambulance-chasing creep," Meredith said.
The courtroom gasped at the barb as Judge John Kavanewsky Jr., struggled to restore civility to the hearing.
Though subdued by contrast, the testimony of Skakel's childhood friend Andrew Pugh offered corroboration of other witnesses' testimony.
Pugh, who now lives in Fairfield, explained that Skakel "had a crush" on Moxley, testimony which supports another witness's claim that Skakel complained his brother Tommy "stole his girlfriend."
"He liked her very much and said he would like to have a relationship with her," Pugh said.
Pugh, who lived across the street from Skakel's home and described he and Michael as "best friends," noted that Skakel was agitated the day Moxley's bludgeoned body was found under a tree in her yard on Oct. 31, 1975.
The atmosphere in the Skakel home changed from that day forward, Pugh said, and the friends drifted apart.
Then, in 1991, after seeing one another at a church in Greenwich, Skakel called him and the two talked. Skakel wanted Pugh to talk to investigators from Sutton Associates who were trying to "clear his name," Pugh said.
Skakel offered the account of his peeping episode to Sutton investigators at the time, and the release of the agency's secret report to the media helped focus attention on Michael Skakel as a suspect.
Pugh told Skakel he had reservations about renewing their friendship because of questions about his involvement in the Moxley murder, he said.
Skakel then explained what happened that evening.
"He said ... 'But a strange thing happened, I was up in the tree that night masturbating,' " Pugh recalled.
Sherman did not cross-examine Pugh. Prosecutors said they intend to recall Pugh to the stand this morning.